how much does it cost to charge a tesla

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla? EV vs. gas fuel comparison

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If you’re considering purchasing a Tesla, one of the top things on your mind is probably how much you’ll pay to charge it. You’re likely familiar with how much it costs to fill up a tank of gas, but charging an electric vehicle (EV) battery is a whole new ballgame! In this article, we’ll explain how much you should expect to pay to charge your Tesla and how this compares to comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) – AKA gas-powered – vehicles. We’ll also walk you through some of the major factors that will impact the cost of charging your Tesla. (Spoiler alert: the best way to lower the cost is to go solar!)


Key takeaways


  • In general, the cost of charging a Tesla is cheaper per mile than the cost of fueling a gas-powered car
  • While you’ll likely pay more upfront for an Tesla than a comparable gas car, EVs are typically cheaper over their lifetime
  • The cost of charging a Tesla will depend on a number of factors including: your electricity source, the size of your Tesla’s battery, the type of EV charger you use, where you live, and when you charge your Tesla
  • Want to lower your Tesla charging costs? The best way to do so is to go solar! Sign up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace to compare quotes from pre-vetted solar installers near you. 

What we’ll cover in this article

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla? Quick overview of base models


  • The Tesla Model 3 costs $8.71 to fully charge
  • The Tesla Model S costs $16.56 to fully charge
  • The Tesla Model X costs $16.57 to fully charge
  • The Tesla Model Y costs $12.29 to fully charge
  • Across all product lines, the average charging cost of a Tesla is 4.12 cents per mile

What’s the difference between an EV and an ICE vehicle?

EVs and ICE vehicles will both get you where you need to go, but there are a few key ways in which they differ. First and foremost: their fuel source. True to their name, EVs are powered by electricity, whereas ICE vehicles run on gasoline, which is burned internally. We’ll explain the pros and cons of EVs in comparison to gas-powered cars and discuss how some popular brands vary in upfront cost. 

Pros & cons of electric vehicles

EVs offer many benefits over ICE vehicles, but there are some disadvantages you’ll want to be aware of as well. The pros of EVs include: 

  • EVs are energy efficient: a higher percentage of energy used to fuel an EV is converted to usable energy.
  • EVs reduce emissions: EVs don’t directly release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, unlike ICE vehicles; however, if you’re not powering them with clean energy, the electricity source used to recharge them may contribute to emissions (though still far less than an ICE vehicle).
  • EVs require lower maintenance: because EVs don’t have an internal combustion engine, the maintenance costs associated with them are often considerably lower than ICE vehicles.

Some cons of EVs you’ll want to consider are:

  • EVs generally can’t travel as far: an EV’s battery typically needs to be recharged before a similar ICE vehicle would need its gas tank refilled.
  • EVs take longer to “refuel”: you’re probably used to filling up your car’s gas tank whenever it’s empty – EVs generally require a bit more planning. Even with the fastest EV charger, you should expect charging to take about 15 minutes. However, if you have an EV charger installed at your home, you’ll definitely need to make fewer trips to the gas station!
  • EVs generally have higher upfront costs: as we explain below, you may need to pay more upfront for an EV than an ICE vehicle (but it could be less expensive in the long run). It’s also possible that you’ll need to replace the battery modules within your EV over the lifetime of the car, depending on how frequently you charge it and what temperature it’s stored at. 

If you’re looking to learn more about the pros and cons of EVs, be sure to check out our article that breaks them down in more detail

Upfront costs of Teslas vs. gas-powered vehicles

Whether you’re shopping for an EV or an ICE vehicle, a car is a big investment! As we discussed above, EVs generally cost more to purchase than similar ICE vehicles, though this will vary depending on which EV and ICE vehicle you’re considering! 

Teslas are very popular EVs and come in four different product lines: the Model 3, Model S, Model X, and Model Y. To provide a cost comparison between Teslas and ICE vehicles, we’ve compiled a list of the best ICE vehicles in each comparable vehicle category in 2021, according to U.S. News. 

Vehicle categoryTesla Upfront Cost (before tax credits)ICE vehicle Upfront Cost
Compact sedanModel 3: $43,990 - $57,990Honda Civic: $21,900 - $29,400
Mid-size luxury sedanModel S: $94,990 - $129,990Mercedes-Benz E-Class: $54,950 - $83,900
Mid-size SUVModel X: $104,990 - $119,990Kia Telluride: $32,790 - $44,590
Compact SUVModel Y: $56,990 - $61,990Hyundai Tucson: $24,950 - $36,350

Note: cost ranges are provided because each vehicle listed represents a product line with varying costs.

Generally, you should expect to pay considerably more upfront for a Tesla, compared to a similar ICE vehicle – take a look at this article to get a breakdown of the upfront cost of each Tesla product.

What about electric vehicle incentives?


If you’re considering purchasing a Tesla, you’ve probably heard of the Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit, which makes newly purchased EVs eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. However, in the second calendar quarter after a manufacturer has sold 200,000 eligible EVs, the tax credit is no longer available. Tesla has now sold over 200,000 vehicles so its EVs no longer come with this incentive. However, if the Biden administration’s Budget Reconciliation passes, there could be good news for anyone hoping to purchase a Tesla: the bill would provide either $8,000 (House version) or $10,000 (Senate version) in tax credits for new Tesla purchasers. 

Even if the bill doesn’t pass, you may be eligible for state EV incentives with the purchase of a Tesla. To learn more about the EV incentives offered in each state, be sure to check out this article

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla?

While, as we explain below, the cost of charging an EV depends on a number of factors, we’ve summarized what you can expect to pay for the various Tesla models. Across all product lines, the average charging cost of a Tesla per mile is 4.12 cents. These numbers are based on the average cost of electricity in the U.S. in August 2021 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which was about 13.99 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). 

Keep in mind that the energy required to charge the battery (in kWh) is greater than the battery size because some of the energy used to charge the battery is lost during the charging process. We’ll explain this process in greater detail later on, but it’s important to note that these numbers are conservative based on data filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Cost to charge a Model 3

The Model 3 line includes compact sedans and is Tesla’s most affordable line of vehicles. It costs between 3.26 and 4.19 cents per mile to charge a Model 3 product. The Model 3 is Tesla’s cheapest product to charge.

Tesla ProductEnergy required to charge battery (kWh)Cost to charge batteryRange of distance (miles)Charging cost per mile (cents)
Model 362.263 kWh*$8.71267 miles3.26 cents
Model 3 Long Range88.541 kWh$12.39334 miles3.71 cents
Model 3 Performance94.242 kWh$13.18315 miles4.19 cents

*Based on the 2021 Standard Plus model, the closest model listed by the EPA.

Cost to charge a Model S

Offering mid-size luxury sedans, the Model S line includes Tesla’s longest range vehicles. Products in the Model S line cost 4.09 or 4.11 cents per mile to charge

Tesla ProductEnergy required to charge battery (kWh)Cost to charge batteryRange of distance (miles)Charging cost per mile (cents)
Model S118.366 kWh*$16.56405 miles4.09 cents
Model S Plaid116.344 kWh$16.28396 miles4.11 cents

*Based on the 2021 Long Range Plus model, the closest model listed by the EPA.

Cost to charge a Model X

Tesla’s Model X line includes mid-size SUVs. Model X vehicles are Tesla’s most expensive products to charge per mile at 4.72 or 4.92 cents per mile.

Tesla ProductEnergy required to charge battery (kWh)Cost to charge batteryRange of distance (miles)Charging cost per mile (cents)
Model X118.418 kWh*$16.57351 miles4.72 cents
Model X Plaid117.876 kWh**$16.49335 miles4.92 cents

*Based on the 2021 Long Range Plus model, the closest model listed by the EPA.
**Based on the 2021 Performance model, the closest model listed by the EPA.

Cost to charge Model Y

The Model Y line offers compact SUVs. While Model Y vehicles can’t travel as far as Model X vehicles, they are cheaper to charge at 3.87 or 4.26 cents per mile.

Tesla ProductEnergy required to charge battery (kWh)Cost to charge batteryRange of distance (miles)Charging cost per mile (cents)
Model Y Long Range87.868 kWh$12.29318 miles3.87 cents
Model Y Performance92.213 kWh$12.90303 miles4.26 cents

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla with solar energy?


Hoping to maximize your EV savings? The best way to do so is to power it with solar! On average, the return on investment for a solar system is about seven to eight years – meaning you’ll be paying less for your solar system than you would be for electricity from your utility at this point. Given that a solar system will typically last between 25 and 30 years and a Tesla will generally last between 23 and 38 years (as explained in more detail below), installing solar along with your EV is worth the investment. In fact, once you’ve finished paying off your system, you’ll be generating electricity and charging your vehicle for free

How much does it cost to fuel a gas-powered vehicle?

The cost of fueling a gas car vehicle depends on the size of the gas tank, as well as the type of gas required. You’ll also pay more for gas overall if your car is less efficient (meaning it travels a shorter distance per gallon of gas). We’ll explain how much it costs to fuel the best compact car, luxury midsize car, midsize SUV, and compact SUV in 2021, according to U.S. News.

Honda Civic

The 2022 Honda Civic 4Dr is a compact car with a 12.4-gallon fuel tank. It requires regular gas ($3.062/gallon in August 2021 according to the EIA), meaning it costs about $37.97 to fill up the tank. The Honda Civic is also fairly efficient, travelling at about 36 miles per gallon (combined city/highway), which provides a range of 446 miles. Overall, fuel costs about 8.51 cents per mile for the Honda Civic. 

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E350 4matic is a luxury midsize car containing a 17.4-gallon fuel tank. This vehicle utilizes premium gas ($3.736/gallon in August 2021 according to the EIA), which costs about $65.01 to fill up the tank. It travels at about 25 miles per gallon (combined city/highway) and can reach about 435 miles on one tank of gas. Overall, for this Mercedes-Benz, fuel costs about 14.94 cents per mile.

Kia Telluride

The 2022 Kia Telluride AWD is a mid-size SUV and comes with an 18.8-gallon fuel tank. It takes regular gas and costs about $57.57 to fill up the tank. This vehicle can travel about 21 miles per gallon (combined city/highway), allowing it to go about 395 miles on one tank of gas. Overall, fuel costs about 14.58 cents per mile for the Kia Telluride.

Hyundai Tucson

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson AWD has a 14.3-gallon fuel tank. It uses regular gas, meaning it costs about $43.79 to fill up the tank. This car travels at about 26 miles per gallon (combined city/highway), reaching about 372 miles on one tank of gas. Overall, for the Hyundai Tucson, fuel costs about 11.78 cents per mile

EVs vs. ICE vehicles: which is cheaper overall?

Comparing long term costs of EVs and ICE vehicles is challenging and depends heavily on which vehicle you’re choosing – but what can you expect in general? In June 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) conducted a study to compare lifetime costs of EVs and ICE vehicles, including typical maintenance costs associated with each type of vehicle. Overall, the DOE found that an EV costs 6.1 cents per mile driven, whereas an ICE vehicle costs 10.1 cents per mile driven: a 4 cent difference! While this might not sound like a lot, when you consider the life of your vehicle, it definitely adds up. Let’s say you drive 200,000 miles over the lifetime of your vehicle – that’s $8,000 saved with an EV. If you drive 300,000 miles, this number increases to $12,000, representing significant savings. 

How far can a Tesla go on one charge?

The range of your Tesla will depend on the product that you choose, with the Model 3 traveling the shortest distance at 267 miles and the Model S traveling the longest distance at 405 miles. Compared to an ICE vehicle, Teslas generally can’t travel as far, though some products come within 30 miles of comparable ICE vehicles. 

Distance per charge/full tank, Teslas and comparable cars

Vehicle categoryTesla Range Distance (miles)ICE Vehicle Range Distance (miles)
Compact sedanModel 3: 267 miles2022 Honda Civic 4Dr: 446 miles
Mid-size luxury sedanModel S: 405 miles2021 Mercedes-Benz E350 4matic: 435 miles
Mid-size SUVModel X: 351 miles2022 Kia Telluride AWD: 395 miles
Compact SUVModel Y Long Range: 318 miles2022 Hyundai Tucson AWD: 372 miles

What factors impact the cost of charging a Tesla?

While charging a Tesla is almost always cheaper than filling up an ICE vehicle with gas, the difference in price will depend on a number of factors. We’ll explain some of the major things to consider to maximize your savings. 

1. Your electricity source

Because you use electricity to charge a Tesla, it’s no surprise that the biggest factor that will affect the cost of charging is your electricity source. For example, you may pay for your utility’s standard offering, or you might choose an electricity alternative, such as community solar, a community choice aggregation (CCA), or a green power plan (GPP). Typically, you’ll pay less annually to charge your Tesla if you subscribe to community solar. However, your utility’s standard offering might be cheaper than a CCA or GPP. To learn more about how these alternative electricity sources compare, be sure to check out this article

If you’re really looking to generate savings, the best way to charge your Tesla is with a rooftop solar system: once you pay off your system, you’ll essentially be able to charge it for free!

2. The size of your Tesla’s battery

It’s no surprise that you’ll pay more per charge if your car has a larger battery. However, depending on your Tesla’s range, you may still pay less per mile with a large battery, and you’ll also have to charge your vehicle less frequently. For example, while you’ll pay about $16.56 to charge a Tesla Model S, you’ll only pay 4.09 cents per mile. On the other hand, the Tesla Model S Plaid will cost only about $16.27 to charge, but you’ll pay 4.11 cents per mile.

3. The type of charger you use

When you charge your EV’s battery, not all of the energy you use is stored in the battery: some is lost as heat, some is used to keep the battery at an adequate temperature, and some escapes as “transmission loss” (a process that’s quite technical, so we won’t get into the details). The level of EV charger you use can substantially impact the amount of energy that’s lost as heat – higher voltage charging generally equates to less energy loss. 

For example, Level 1 chargers (AKA 120-volt regular outlet chargers) and Level 2 chargers (AKA 208- or 240-volt standard home EV chargers) have to convert alternating current (AC) electricity from your home into direct current (DC) electricity that can be stored by your EV’s battery. This conversion produces heat, leading to energy loss. On the other hand, Level 3 chargers (400-volt chargers you’d find on the highway) provide DC electricity, so no conversion losses occur. According to an article from Car and Driver, Level 3 chargers typically see efficiency above 90 percent, whereas Level 1 or Level 2 chargers typically reach about 85 percent, with some dropping to as low as 60 percent in cold weather.

The table below shows the charging efficiency of various Tesla models using a 240-volt Level 2 charger. These numbers are based on documents filed with the EPA in which batteries went from zero percent to 100 percent charge – because this represents a more dramatic scenario than would typically occur, these numbers are considered conservative. 

Tesla Model charging efficiencies

Tesla ModelEnergy required to charge battery (kWh)End charge of battery (kWh)Efficiency (percentage)
Model 3*62.263 kWh54.689 kWh86.20%
Model 3 Long Range88.541 kWh78.557 kWh87.30%
Model 3 Performance94.242 kWh80.818 kWh83.40%
Model S**118.366 kWh103.892 kWh86.10%
Model S Plaid116.344 kWh99.287 kWh82.80%
Model X**118.418 kWh103.669 kWh85.8% 
Model X Plaid***117.876 kWh102.829 kWh85.40%
Model Y Long Range87.868 kWh77.702 kWh86.90%
Model Y Performance92.213 kWh81.052 kWh86.20%

*Based on the 2021 Standard Plus model, the closest model listed by the EPA.
**Based on the 2021 Long Range Plus model, the closest model listed by the EPA.
***Based on the 2021 Performance model, the closest model listed by the EPA.

4. Where you live

Electricity costs vary significantly across the country, so where you live will play a large role in how much you pay to charge your Tesla (unless you’re charging it with solar energy!). Based on August 2021 regional electricity cost data from the EIA, you can expect to pay the following to charge your Tesla depending on where you live: 

Regional electricity costs and Tesla charging costs per mile

RegionAugust 2021 cost of electricity (cents per kWh)Tesla Model 3 charging cost per mile (cents)Tesla Model S charging cost per mile (cents)Tesla Model X charging cost per mile (cents)Tesla Model Y Long Range charging cost per mile (cents)
New England20.87 cents/kWh4.87 cents6.10 cents7.04 cents5.77 cents
Middle Atlantic16.90 cents/kWh3.94 cents4.94 cents5.70 cents4.67 cents
East North Central14.14 cents/kWh3.30 cents4.13 cents4.77 cents3.91 cents
West North Central13.32 cents/kWh3.11 cents3.89 cents4.49 cents3.68 cents
South Atlantic12.43 cents/kWh2.90 cents3.63 cents4.19 cents3.43 cents
East South Central12.01 cents/kWh2.80 cents3.51 cents4.05 cents3.32 cents
West South Central11.85 cents/kWh2.76 cents3.46 cents4.00 cents3.27 cents
Mountain12.32 cents/kWh2.87 cents3.60 cents4.16 cents3.40 cents
Pacific Contiguous19.58 cents/kWh4.57 cents5.72 cents6.61 cents5.41 cents
Pacific Noncontiguous29.68 cents/kWh6.92 cents8.67 cents10.01 cents8.20  cents

Overall, you’ll probably pay the most if you live in the Pacific Noncontiguous U.S. and the least if you live in the West South Central region of the U.S.

It’s also important to note that more energy is lost in the charging process if you live in a really hot or really cold climate – energy will be used to keep your Tesla’s battery at an adequate  temperature, leading to a lower charging efficiency. Thus, temperate climates are best for EV charging.

5. When you charge your Tesla

Depending on where you live, you may also pay more to charge your Tesla at certain times of the day. Certain utilities have rate structures that adjust the rate you pay for electricity over the course of the day or year, based on when electricity is in high demand. These rate structures, called time-varying-rates, will vary by utility but generally charge more when the cost of generating electricity and the demand for electricity are high – such as in the middle of the afternoon on a hot day. Typically, you’ll pay less to charge your Tesla after you’ve gone to bed if you live in an area with this type of rate structure. 

Frequently asked questions

How much does your monthly electricity bill go up with a Tesla?

According to 2018 data from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the average driver in the U.S. travels about 1,100 miles each month. Across all Tesla products, the average charging cost per mile is 4.12 cents per mile. So, if you only charge your Tesla at home, you can expect your electricity bill to increase by about $45 each month

How long does it take to charge a Tesla?

If you’re charging your Tesla at home, you probably have either a Level 1 (120-volt, standard outlet) charger or a Level 2 (208- or 240-volt) charger. You should expect a Level 1 charger to take between 20 to 40 hours to charge your Tesla, and a Level 2 charger to take about 8 to 12 hours. 

If you’re planning on charging your Tesla on the road at a Level 3 charging station, such as with a Tesla Supercharger, it will probably only take about 20 to 30 minutes. To learn more about charging a Tesla, make sure to take a look at our article about the time it takes to charge different Tesla models

How long do Teslas last?

In a 2019 tweet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that the Model 3 product line is “designed like a commercial truck for a million mile life.” However, he estimates that the current batteries in the vehicles should last between 300,000 and 500,000 miles, or about 1,500 cycles – the number of complete charges. Assuming you follow the U.S. average and drive 13,200 miles annually, this means you can expect your Tesla to last between 23 and 38 years.

Power your Tesla with renewable energy by going solar with EnergySage!

If you’re looking to lower your Tesla charging costs, the best way to do so is by going solar! On the EnergySage Marketplace, you can compare up to seven quotes from our network of pre-screened installers, allowing you to find a system that fits your needs at the right price. If you’re planning to charge an EV at your home, be sure to make a note in your account so installers can size your system accordingly – that way, you’ll be able to power your car with renewable energy generated right at your home! 

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About Emily Walker

Emily is the Content Manager & Research Analyst at EnergySage, where she enjoys making energy fun and easy to learn about! She has a background in environmental consulting and has degrees in Environmental Science and Biology from Colby College. Outside of work, Emily is pursuing a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University in Environmental Science and Policy. She also loves hiking, tending to her collection of houseplants, and trying out new restaurants and breweries whenever possible.

2 thoughts on “How much does it cost to charge a Tesla? EV vs. gas fuel comparison

  1. Mark Benson

    Thanks for this interesting article. One item that should be considered in this comparison is the taxes paid for gasoline (both Federal and State). One of the issues being wrestled with is the amount of money toward roads/infrastructure that comes from these taxes and how that burden will be shifted with a shift to EVs.
    https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=10&t=10

    Reply
  2. Ray Stetkiewicz

    How can you say both of these in your article? Besides Tesla, which you kind of refute the need to replace the battery module, what other specific EVs are you talking about? Please site your source.

    EVs generally have higher upfront costs: as we explain below, you may need to pay more upfront for an EV than an ICE vehicle (but it could be less expensive in the long run). It’s also possible that you’ll need to replace the battery modules within your EV a few times over the lifetime of the car.

    In a 2019 tweet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that the Model 3 product line is “designed like a commercial truck for a million mile life.” However, he estimates that the current batteries in the vehicles should last between 300,000 and 500,000 miles, or about 1,500 cycles – the number of complete charges. Assuming you follow the U.S. average and drive 13,200 miles annually, this means you can expect your Tesla to last between 23 and 38 years.

    Reply

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